This whole concept is awesome. But we've already covered that. A lot. Let's tell both sides of this story.
There are also plenty of challenges. How do you make a team? What defines a team?
In our case, we put six riders together somewhat at random, brought them to two team camps between January and June and then said, "voila! A team!"
Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. Teams are built on shared experience. Teams are founded on trust that is created and nurtured over time, through training or togetherness. A team is more than six women stuffed into the same spandex superhero outfit.
We're learning to work together slowly. We're not forcing it. We're meshing the riding styles (and personalities!) of a randonneur with a crit racer with a pro triathlete. You think that's easy? It's not. But we're making it happen.
We are making this up as we go. And we are doing the best we can. Every day, it's a little bit better. We're having hard conversations and making strategic decisions. It was rocky at first and it's getting sorted out. We just came out of a one-hour team meeting to talk about how and if we should continue to sometimes ride with the peloton-family that we have unexpectedly inherited. It can split the group up. It's hard to make sure everyone is there.
Then there are questions:
Does riding in the peloton of 30 that is here diminish our story? Is what we're doing any less awesome if we get some shelter from those bastard headwinds on the long, flat days? Will you be less inspired? Will it be less meaningful? Do the photos and video collateral mean anything if we don't make it to Paris?
Yesterday our photo car paced the group up a climb while shooting out the back and naturally the speed kicked up. Front riders felt nothing and a weaker rider was gapped. I went back to ride with her while the photo car and the rest of the group disappeared into the distance. We did 55k together until lunch when we met back up with the group and my average wattage for that time increased by 30.
Today one of our riders got popped on a long roller (jesus, it was almost me so many times today… and it WAS me two days ago) and someone came forward to tell me that she was safe and sheltered by a small group of six who were carrying her forward. The next rest stop was 5k up the road so we went to it and regrouped with her there. Are we doing it wrong?
The thing about this is that it is so incredibly physically challenging that every bit of effort saved or expended is critical. Over 21 stages the sum total of those things will affect whether or not we can finish. We have to learn to make the choices that are best for the team as a whole. What is the best way to get to Paris?
We came here together, six near-strangers and started the most stressful and taxing endeavor that any of us has ever undertaken. We're tired, we're rushed, we're eating unfamiliar foods and we're riding until we can't see straight. Yeah, there's gonna be some shit.
But you know what?
In the meantime, we're crushing it.
We are doing more than we thought we could do, despite the organizational challenges.
And every stage that we finish is a victory that we share together. Along the way there are dark moments on never-ending rollers in the French countryside. Shared chevre and ham sandwiches passed from one to another while we sit up to stretch our backs. Impossibly hilarious pee jokes. Tall blond angels floating back through the peloton to check on people.
What is happening with us is not visible to those not on the road. We are learning from the Dutch and Belgians: about taking care of each other and reaching the finish as one. It is taking more time we might have hoped, but it is happening.
We are starting to have fun. We are starting to trust each other. We are starting to feel good about this.
This isn't perfect, but what is? We are still in it. We are still pedaling. We are still here. We are still working and talking.
And the real challeninge is only just beginning.
Bring us the mountains: we are ready to take them on. Together.